This weekend, after much deliberation, internal debate, planning, vague outlining, research and other wastes of time, I finally took my Young Adult horror/contemporary fantasy novel (hopefully to be series of novels, not to count my chickens when they are naught but embryos) out of my head and started putting it on paper. Well, virtual paper, anyway. I started writing Friday night and managed to find time to squeeze out about 5,500 words this weekend–far and away my most productive writing weekend in almost three years. (I have to graciously thank my lovely wife for allowing me to have today off; about three thousand of those words came this afternoon and tonight.)
I think I was able to get started because of something Amy said to me in an email last week. In addition to the other wonderful insights she had, she said to me (and I hope she doesn’t mind that I quote her here):
So rather than outline, I’m trying to just maintain forward motion so that in the end, I have the story down on paper–the biggest part of the job–and I can always go back and edit. What worked for me was freeing myself of attention to chronology and editing–writing like this gave me the momentum to just keep going.
That’s the National Novel Writing Month philosophy in a nutshell–keep moving forward, no matter what, no matter how awful the tripe spewing from your fingers. Just keep moving forward until you’re done. And it really does work.
But the biggest detail in there that got me going was that she said she freed herself from attention to chronology…which I took to mean that I didn’t have to start at the beginning. Not positive that’s what Amy meant, but that’s how I interpreted it, anyway. I’ve had a hard time deciding how the story should start, but I wanted to get going on it, so I just picked a visual I’d had in my head, a scene I knew had to happen at some point in the book, and I wrote that Friday night.
And then I felt like I was able to go back to the beginning, so I did…and I just kept writing, which was a pretty amazing thing for me.
My main problem at this point is that I’ve pretty much written most everything I knew was going to happen, and I have no idea what’s going to happen next. That’s both intimidating and a little exciting. I think I’ll get around that problem, though, because of something else Amy said, something else I’ve long believed (and previously touched on in this blog) but wasn’t putting into practice: plot grows from character, not the other way around. I’m hoping my characters will tell me what’s going to happen…soon.
Speaking of, I went into this with almost no conception of most of my characters and they’ve started to form much more fully in my head just from what I’ve written so far. Do I necessarily know their favorite soft drinks or the most traumatic moment from each of their childhoods? Nope–but I don’t need to right now. If I need to know that information, I’m feeling more confident that they’ll tell me.
I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of what I’ve written the past couple days is likely pretty wretched. I have no problem with that–because I’m really good at editing, and going back and fixing something I’ve done before is a lot easier than getting it out in the first place. I’ve given myself the freedom to allow my first draft to suck terribly in hopes that I’ll just get the draft done, and then I can go back and try to get that turd of a draft all nice and polished.
Okay, enough rambling. I’m putting my progress bar up there in the sidebar so all of you can see how I’m doing–and hopefully occasionally put pressure on me to make sure I’m keeping up with it. I’m expecting this book to be somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 words, so I’m about eight percent done with the first draft already. Not a bad weekend of work.